Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) Hands-on: Do we need four cameras?

It actually has five if you’ll count the front, as well

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Before, not counting the front, a smartphone only had one camera. Then, dual sensors became a thing with either zoom, ultra-wide, or monochrome as the secondary sensor. The trend moved faster with triple shooters and it’s not stopping there! Samsung jumped to four with the new Galaxy A9.

The biggest premium midrange phone of Samsung also has the most number of rear cameras on a smartphone. But before we get to them, let’s talk about the Galaxy A9 (2018) like an everyday phone first.


It’s got a gigantic 6.3-inch display

Still a Super AMOLED panel but flat

It’s almost borderless…

At least, it has no notch

It’s got a chin and uses virtual buttons

Everything is on the screen

The power and volume buttons are on the right

They’re quite small for a big phone

There’s a lone button on the left for Bixby

Samsung is really pushing this

The triple-card tray is accessible from the top

A surprising feature for a premium phone

We have the 3.5mm and USB-C ports at the bottom

The audio jack is here to stay

Samsung now has a gradient color scheme

It has its own beauty

Look at its shifting colors

Just don’t put a case or it’ll be useless

The camera holes are unsettling to look at

Maybe there’s another way to stack them?

Just look at them; aren’t they… interesting?

Each has its own purpose

Same-old Samsung design

When Samsung’s high-end Galaxy S lineup shifted to curved Infinity Displays, I kinda missed the flat display of the Galaxy S7. If you dislike having a curved display, you’ll love the fact that the Galaxy A9 (2018) has a simple and flat panel. It’s still Super AMOLED and crisp-looking at 392ppi.

The body of the phone is made from cold metal and smooth glass. There’s nothing about the new Galaxy A9 that feels cheap. It’s just big, so one-handed usage is difficult.

One thing I love about big phones is how they make mobile games more immersive. Thankfully, this phone is powered by a Snapdragon 660 processor that’s paired with 6GB of memory and 128GB of storage. If the storage space isn’t enough, you can also put your files and photos on a microSD card and insert it into the phone. Additionally, the phone has a large 3800mAh battery.

The phone runs smoothly and switches between apps with ease. I have no issues with its gaming performance, but graphics-intensive titles might need to adjust to medium settings to ensure high frame rates.

Android 8.0 Oreo comes out of the box, which is disappointing since Android 9 Pie is already available. Samsung will eventually update this phone with their latest UI, but there’s no exact date for the rollout as of writing.

The four cameras deliver

The main feature of the new Galaxy A9 is its cameras. Samsung pushed it to the limits by putting four rear cameras. There are four different sensors on the back of the phone and they are vertically aligned.

The main one is a 24-megapixel shooter with a f/1.7 aperture and phase-detection autofocus. The added shooters are an 8-megapixel ultra-wide (12mm) camera and a 10-megapixel telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom. The remaining camera is simply a 5-megapixel depth sensor for the extra bokeh effects.

Here are samples from the phone’s main, ultra-wide, and telephoto cameras:

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Obviously, the main camera should be your go-to option for everyday photos. It’s suitable for quick snaps and captures better-looking images. Using the ultra-wide camera will let you take more of the scene, but the lower resolution and smaller aperture sacrifice some of the quality. I don’t really find the telephoto camera to be useful, but if the situation asks for it, it’s always there.

As mentioned earlier, the fourth camera of the Galaxy A9 takes care of bokeh. Check out these portrait samples and notice the extra effect applied to the background.

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As for selfies, the phone has another 24-megapixel in front. The selfie camera has all the common features you’d expect including beauty filters, bokeh, and even Samsung’s own AR Emoji.

The Samsung Galaxy A9’s cameras don’t match the Galaxy S9’s or the Galaxy Note 9’s, but the extra camera sensors make the phone more fun to use. The ultra-wide shooter has the potential to be a crowd favorite if only it could shoot better images — especially in the dark.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you want a premium phone that offers something new to the table, the Galaxy A9 will not disappoint. Samsung was able to come up with a midranger that may seem boring at first, but having four cameras makes the difference.

Indeed, the Galaxy A9’s design is not the best it could be. Placing the four sensors inside a long module seems like a weird concept design that actually came true. It does attract unsuspecting crowd though, but I am not sure if it is for the better or worse.

The Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) is not a cheap phone either, but it’s not overly expensive compared to previous Samsung midrange releases. It starts at SG$ 728 in Singapore, PhP 32,990 in the Philippines, and INR 36,990 in India.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy A7 hands-on review: Beyond the cameras

Hands-On

OPPO Reno 10x Zoom hands-on: Bold and beautiful

Will you spend this much on an OPPO phone?

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It seems like only yesterday when OPPO announced things we can expect from a flagship device that they committed to release in the second quarter of the year.

That time has come with the Reno’s arrival.


If you’re a fan, you’d know that Reno is not an existing product line from OPPO. It’s a new series that, according to the Chinese company, is the epitome of their creative vision and will serve as the catalyst for OPPO’s smartphone development for the next 10 years.

New design language

Central to this new series is a fresh design language. From the outside, you can already tell that this is unlike any other OPPO phone we’ve seen before.

At the back, everything is symmetrical, and the cameras do not protrude. Just below them is what OPPO calls the Protective O-dot. It’s a small ceramic bump that’s meant to elevate the phone ever so slightly, and protect the phone from surface marks.

The logo and small text that says “Designed by OPPO” are in an unusual orientation for a smartphone. But that’s because the Reno series is made primarily with photography and mobile entertainment in mind. In case you didn’t notice, the OPPO logo got an update as well.

The Reno comes in three variants: the standard model powered by a Snapdragon 710, the 10x Zoom that sports Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 855, and the 5G model which is promised to come to Switzerland in May.

They will come in this beautiful matte finish called Ocean Green, as well as a glossy Jet Black finish.

While they all feature the new look, you can tell the 10x Zoom model apart through its bigger display, battery capacity, and the extra periscopic lens.

In front, you get an unobstructed 6.6-inch AMOLED display, topped with Corning Gorilla Glass 6. It has neither a hole nor a notch. OPPO says they minimized the size of the chin to achieve an even higher 93.1 percent screen-to-body ratio.

Switch to selfie mode and up pops what OPPO calls the Pivot Rising Camera. It rises at a maximum angle of 11 degrees in just 0.8 seconds. OPPO says the phone can survive up to 200,000 drops, as the camera automatically retracts whenever the phone is dropped.

In this pop-up module are the earpiece, front-facing soft light, and the 16MP front-facing camera. There’s also flash at the back.

However, what’s most impressive about the selfie camera isn’t the pop-up mechanism or the 11-degree angle; it’s the way the phone processes extremely backlit selfies. With other smartphones, backgrounds usually turn out overexposed. See how the Reno handles this scenario:

Triple camera threat

The selfie camera is just the tip of the iceberg, however. What you should really be paying attention to are the three cameras at the back: a 48MP primary shooter, an 8MP ultra wide-angle lens, and a 13MP periscopic telephoto lens. Both the primary and telephoto lenses are optically stabilized.

Using a prism, OPPO is able to minimize the thickness of the telephoto lens. The periscope structure of the lens uses 13 percent less space, so the camera module is only 6.76mm thick. Because of this setup, the Reno 10x Zoom can go up to 10x hybrid zoom, just as its name suggests.

Take a look at these sample photos we took around Zurich.

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The phone can also zoom in up to 20x, if you really want to get in closer. This is how it looks:

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The OPPO Reno 10x zoom also has Ultra Night Mode 2.0. Using a combination of a large sensor, fast aperture, and software magic, you can get better detail in low-light environments, and get rid of random lights that are not artsy enough to look like a lens flare.

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The Reno 10x Zoom’s low-light performance is not a surprise though, as OPPO’s midrange R17 Pro was also one of the best low-light cameras we tried last year.

Built to compete

The OPPO Reno 10x Zoom is a flagship device with flagship specs that can rival any top-of-the-line smartphone from 2019: Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855, up to 8GB RAM, and up to 256GB expandable storage.

OPPO emphasizes great gaming performance on this phone. With HyperBoost 2.0, the phone can avoid lag and touch performance issues.

It also uses three heat dissipation methods, including graphite sheets, copper pipe cooling tech, and thermal conductive grease paste to help control overheating when playing over longer periods of time.

We didn’t get to fully test this yet as our review unit is a Chinese version. But once we get an international unit, our full review will definitely include gaming performance.

The OPPO Reno 10x zoom also has a humongous 4065mAh battery which comes with faster VOOC 3.0 charging technology.

Speaking of faster, the in-display fingerprint scanner on the Reno 10x Zoom is one of the fastest we’ve used lately.

If that’s not your cup of tea, there’s still face unlock. Yep, even if the camera is hidden, it will pop up whenever you want to unlock the phone using face recognition. It also happens so fast you’d barely see the magic happen.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

OPPO’s Reno 10x Zoom definitely has what it takes to go against this year’s premium flagship devices: It’s beautiful, fully beefed up, and has cameras you can rely on. The new ColorOS is also refreshingly clean.

While the Reno 10x Zoom costs less than what most of its competition are sold for, at the end of the day, the decision to buy the phone solely boils down to whether you are actually willing to spend EUR 799 (US$ 895) on a phone from OPPO.

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Hands-On

OPPO F11 hands-on: Without the moving parts

No motor, lower price

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We already talked about the OPPO F11 Pro, and now we have the OPPO F11. Without the “Pro” moniker, the regular F11 is supposed to sit below its Pro sibling. One would think that the F11 has compromises, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The regular F11 and F11 Pro share a lot in common, so it’s best to read about the Pro model as well. Our F11 Pro hands-on is available for your reading pleasure here.


Without further ado, here’s my hands-on with OPPO‘s new midranger. As always, let’s start with the physique:

It has a 5.3-inch Full HD+ display

With a 19.5:9 aspect ratio

The waterdrop notch sits on top

It houses the selfie camera

To its right is the power button

Marked with a green accent

The volume keys and card tray are on the left

It uses a hybrid card system

The micro-USB and 3.5mm jack still live on

At least it ha VOOC 3.0 fast charging tech

The back is glossy yet classy

It’s not glass though

There’s a dual rear camera system for taking photos

With a fingerprint reader just beneath it

The notch makes an appearance

The notch was a major feature among phones last year, and it’s still present on some newly announced devices. A number of manufacturers tried to kill it with different solutions and one of those ways is implemented on the F11 Pro. The motorized pop-up front camera allowed the F11 Pro to have a full-screen display without any cutout. But, the case of the regular F11 is different.

The major difference between the F11 and F11 Pro is in the front camera and display. Since the F11 is made to be cost-effective, OPPO had to remove the motorized mechanism and opt for a notch. The waterdrop notch design we first saw on last year’s F9 is present on the F11. Still, the absence of a pop-up camera didn’t provide the F11 a water-resistance rating. It would be great to have protection from liquids.

Aside from the notch, the regular F11 has a similar display to the F11 Pro’s. It’s still an LCD panel that measures 6.53 inches diagonally with a tall aspect ratio. Since it’s an LCD, there’s no way to include an in-display fingerprint reader. A good-old capacitive scanner is positioned on the back of the phone.

The overall design of the F11 is almost identical to the F11 Pro’s. Unsuspecting eyes might not be able to tell the small differences at first glance. This means the F11 is also a classy-looking phone, even though it primarily has a plastic body.

As fast as the Pro model

When it comes to specs, the F11 inherits everything the F11 Pro has. The regular F11 is also powered by the Helio P70 processor paired with 6GB of memory. For storage, it has 64GB that can be expanded using a microSD card. Specs-wise, the Pro doesn’t really have an advantage in this department.

The latest Android Pie-based ColorOS 6 is available out of the box, which is nice, but there’s no promised update to Android Q when that gets released later this year. OPPO is known to skip major updates, so we don’t expect it to get Android Q.

Thankfully, the phone runs smoothly and the extra features of ColorOS are much appreciated. OPPO’s customization of Android is not my favorite, but it’s not the worst out there.

Gaming is alright on the F11, although I did run into a couple of issues. For some reason, Asphalt 9: Legends doesn’t play very well even on default settings, plus PUBG: Mobile has to be launched a few times before it loads properly to its home screen. These issues can be easily addressed through an update, so these are not deal breakers.

The phone’s 4020mAh battery is not a slouch either. Additionally, VOOC 3.0 fast charging tech is available and a compatible adapter is included in the phone’s retail box.

Okay cameras with night mode

Again, the F11 is blessed with the same cameras found on the F11 Pro. On the back, the F11 also has a 48-megapixel f/1.8 main shooter accompanied by a 5-megapixel depth sensor for extra features like portrait mode. For selfies, it has a 16-megapixel sensor placed inside the waterdrop notch.

Check out these samples taken using the F11 Pro’s cameras:

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Like with other phones with 48-megapixel sensors, the F11 will use all those pixels to create a crispier 12-megapixel photo. The results are generally okay, even in low-light scenarios. The night shot above was taken using the phone’s Night Mode. As for selfies, OPPO is still indeed a selfie expert.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

For those who like to have a new OPPO phone, I would suggest the regular F11 since it’s a better choice than its Pro sibling. How so? The F11 is essentially an F11 Pro without the motorized pop-up mechanism. If you can let go of the modern approach in selfie cameras and are not bothered by a small notch, you’ll get better value with this.

The OPPO F11 is priced at just PhP 15,990 (US$ 310) in the Philippines, which is PhP 3,000 cheaper than the F11 Pro. It’s available in different shades of green and purple.

SEE ALSO: OPPO F11 Pro hands-on: Slowly becoming a flagship

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Hands-On

Huawei P30 hands-on: All the cool features applied in real life

How zoomed in is zoomed in?

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After all the “oohs” and “ahhs,” and as the dust settles from Huawei’s flagship launch, the question is: What’s so great about the Huawei P30? And no, I don’t want to hear any specs.

To answer this question, I road tested the Huawei P30 to see just what it can do and how I can use those features in real life.


In case you’re having trouble viewing, watch HERE.

SEE ALSO: Selfie and posing tips from Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach

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